The MVRHS boys and girls swim teams return to action on Jan. 25 against visiting Coyle and Cassidy after a well-earned three-day break from competition. Last Sunday, a supposed day of rest, they traveled to Nantucket to compete in the 12th annual Cape Cod Classic. Prior to that, it was Bishop Stang on Thursday and Barnstable on Friday. Three meets in four days.
For the record, the boys split the two head-to-head meets, and are now 4-7 on the season. The girls dropped both contests, and stand at 3-8. In the six-team Cape Cod Classic, the boys and girls finished third and fifth respectively.
That hectic stretch of competition, however, is only part of this team’s story. Competing right alongside the Vineyard high schoolers in those meets were six Island middle school students. Such a roster adjustment, adding junior high–age students to a high school team, is permitted by the MIAA only under certain circumstances, the head swimming coach, Jonathan Chatinover, explained.
“The MIAA has a provision called a Co-op,” he said. ”Because we had only five boys returning this season, we applied for and got a Co-op for both the Charter School and for seventh and eighth graders. We added eighth grade boys Oliver Dorr, Ben Yancey, and Ruairi Mullin to the boys team, along with seventh graders Jack Crawford and Christian Flanders. Seventh grader Annabelle Brothers joined the girls team. We also added four Charter high schoolers.”
By all accounts, the younger kids have blended in very smoothly. According to the coach, almost all of his swimmers are part of the YMCA-sponsored Makos Swim Club, a year-round competitive swimming program for ages 6 to 18. These kids have swum with and against each other at the Y for a long time. As senior tri-captain Evan Sauter put it, “The younger kids are not awed by us. They take it all in stride.”
For eighth grader Oliver Dorr, it’s been a great experience. “The high school swimmers and the coach have treated me like I was one of the team since the first meet,” he said. “They are very supportive and friendly, and encourage the younger swimmers after every swim, good or bad.”
Eighth grader Ruairi Mullin agrees. “Practices and swim meets are a lot harder than I’m used to,” he said, ” but the high school kids have been great, and Coach Jonathan is super-helpful.”
The value of the young swimmers to this year’s teams cannot be overstated. The other senior boys captains echoed Evan’s praise. Harrison Dorr, whose brother Oliver is now a teammate, said, “They‘ve raced well individually, which helps us be successful as a team.”
Captain Keith Chatinover of the Charter School addressed another benefit. “The scoring in swim meets is spread among the top three or more finishers in a race,” he explained. “A deeper roster improves our chances of earning points with a fourth- or even fifth-place finish. That goes for individual races as well as relays.”
The younger set is definitely putting points on the board. Two cases in point: Against Barnstable, Annabelle Brothers took a second place (50-yard freestyle) and a third (100 backstroke), while also teaming up for two relay wins. Similarly, Oliver Dorr has contributed in individual as well as relay events. He won the 200 medley against Barnstable, and helped his relay team achieve a season-best time in the 200 freestyle at Bishop Stang.
A swim team is only as successful as its individual performances. Which is one reason the Vineyard swimmers support each other with such gusto. Another reason is that they care about and rely on one another. There’s a bond among these swimmers that is evident both in practice and meets.
“Unlike many sports,” observed Coach Chatinover, “younger, smaller kids can contribute immediately to a swim team. This results in good rapport among the team.”
Seventh grader Annabelle Brothers is grateful to be part of it all. “Getting to know my teammates so well means I’ll have close friends when I get to high school,” she said.
Eighth grader Ben Yancey echoed the point: “It has been a good learning process for me and has made me excited to join the team as a high school student next year.
Another advantage for the middle schoolers is competing against stronger teammates. As Annabelle said, “It’s fun to compete against older swimmers like Gabby Carr.”
That “older teammate” would be ninth grader Gabriella Carr who, along with Evan Sauter and Harrison Dorr, has been a mainstay all season for the team. Against Bishop Stang, she qualified for the sectional meet in the 200 freestyle. At the Classic on Sunday, Gabby bested her own school record in the the same event, and along with her teammates, in the 200 freestyle relay as well.
Against Barnstable, Evan Sauter qualified for the State Championships with a school-record performance in the 100 butterfly. On Sunday he qualified in the 100 backstroke, breaking his own team record in the process.
Harrison Dorr has also been on a tear. He won not only the 100 and 200 freestyle against Barnstable, but also the 200 freestyle relay, along with Ruairi, Evan, and Oliver. At Sunday’s Classic, that foursome broke the boys team record in the 400 freestyle by five seconds.
Today’s meet against Coyle and Cassidy is the team’s last home appearance of the season. It is also Senior Day. The Vineyarders will visit league rival Bishop Feehan on Tuesday, Jan. 30, and conclude their team season with the EAC Championships on Friday, Feb. 2, at UMass Dartmouth.